Ralph George Hawtrey

British economist

Sir Ralph George Hawtrey (22 November 187921 March 1975) was a British economist, and a close friend of John Maynard Keynes. He was a member of the Cambridge Apostles, the University of Cambridge intellectual secret society.

Ralph George Hawtrey


  • When credit is expanding, the rising price level and high profits bring about a high rate of interest. When the expansion has reached, the limit permitted by the stock of gold, the rate of interest is put still higher in order to bring about a fall in the price level. When the fall in prices takes effect, a low rate of interest becomes appropriate, and when credit contraction has proceeded so far that a redundant supply of gold has accumulated, the rate of interest is depressed still lower in order to bring about a renewed rise in the price level. Thus a high rate of interest corresponds first with rising, then with falling, prices, and so synchronizes with high prices. A low rate of interest corresponds first with falling, and then with rising, prices, and so synchronizes with low prices.
    • Ralph George Hawtrey, quoted in Irving Fisher, The Theory of Interest (1930), Chapter 19. The Relation of Interest to Money and Prices
  • Banks lend by creating credit. They create the means of payment out of nothing.
    • Ralph M. Hawtrey as assistant secretary of the British Treasury, quoted in: Robert Latham Owen (1939), National economy and the banking system of the United States. p. 102

Currency and Credit (1919)Edit

Ralph George Hawtrey, Currency and Credit (1919)

  • Scientific treatment of the subject of currency is impossible without some form of the quantity theory … but the quantity theory by itself is inadequate, and it leads up to the method of treatment based on what I have called the consumers’ income and the consumers’ outlay – that is to say, simply the aggregates of individual incomes and individual expenditures.
    • p. v
  • The total effective demand for commodities in the market is limited to the number of units of money of account that dealers are prepared to offer, and the number they are prepared to offer over any period of time is limited according to the number they hope to receive.
    • p. 3
  • The use of money does not disestablish the normal process of creating credit. Money, it is true, is always being paid into the banks by the retailers and others who receive it in the course of business, and they of course receive bank credits in return for the money thus deposited. But for the manufacturers and others who have to pay money out, credits are still created by the exchange of obligations, the banker's immediate obligation being given to his customer in exchange for the customer's obligation to repay at a future date. We shall still describe this dual operation as the creation of credit. By its means the banker creates the means of payment out of nothing, whereas when he receives a bag of money from his customer, one means of payment, a bank credit, is merely substituted for another, an equal amount of cash.
    • Chapter II, "Metallic Money", p. 20 (2nd ed. 1921)
  • Indeed it would have been a mean-spirited course to go back on the century-old standard on account of so trifling a premium on gold, a premium which, as it turned out, the action of the market wiped out in a few months, before any of the provisions of the Act of 1819 had come into operation.
    • Chapter XIVVV, "The Gold Standard" p. 311 (2nd ed. 1921)

The Economic Problem (1925)Edit

Ralph George Hawtrey, The Economic Problem (1925)

  • Man is a rational animal, and if human affairs are hard to regulate, his twofold nature is usually the cause. Reason is something ultimate; it would be the same in another planet, or in another universe, as it is here. Animal nature is something contingent; it might have been different. Our life is a compromise, a blend between the animal and the rational.
    • Chapter I, "The Problem Profounded", p. 1
  • If each member of society can be induced or impelled to do his allotted task by associating it with some motive that appears to him adequate, then he need never know how he is contributing to the real end, and need not even be aware of the end at all. It is this problem of organization that we shall call the Economic Problem. It is in fact the real subject matter of political economy.
    • Chapter I, "The Problem Profounded", p. 3.

The Art of Central Banking (1932)Edit

Ralph George Hawtrey, The Art of Central Banking (1932)

  • Economic theory, in every branch, deals with practical affairs. Its subject is human welfare, and it is never entirely dissociated from the practical question of how human welfare is to be promoted. But it is a special characteristic of the art of central banking that it deals specifically with the task of an authority directly entrusted with the promotion of human welfare. Human welfare, human motives, human behaviour supply material so baffling and elusive that many people are sceptical of the possibility of building a scientific edifice on so shifting a foundation. But however complex the material, and however imperfect the data, there is always an advantage to be gained from systematic thought.
    • Preface

A Century of Bank Rate (1938)Edit

Ralph George Hawtrey, A Century of Bank Rate (1938)

  • To unstable money are to be traced nearly all our economic troubles since 1918: the unemployment of the inter-war period; the over-employment and scarcity of labour since the Second World War; the labour unrest incidental to perpetual wage demands; the hardships and dislocation caused by the declining value of small savings, annuities and endowments; the vexation of continual price rises even for those whose incomes on the whole keep pace with them; the collapse of the prices of Government securities through distrust of the unit in which they are valued.
    • ‘Foreword’ (1961) to A Century of Bank Rate (1962, 2nd ed.), p. xxii.
  • Once the gold standard was suspended, there could be no doubt of the purpose of that step. In face of the exchange risk the high rate could not possibly attract foreign money. It could only be intended as a safeguard against inflation. Fantastic fears of inflation were expressed. That was to cry, Fire, Fire, in Noah's Flood. It is after depression and unemployment have subsided that inflation becomes dangerous.
    • Chapter IV, "Bank Rate and Deflation, 1934-32" p.144-145

Quotes about Ralph George HawtreyEdit

  • Hawtrey, I think one can see, came to favor the other way out. It is the fixed rate of exchange which imposes the international constraint; if that is abandoned, the Bank can recover its authority. A system in which the rate of exchange is free to move, while internal stability is maintained by a relentless application of the Bank Rate mechanism, is theoretically conceivable, and as a model is instructive. But it would seem to depend for its working upon the maintenance of confidence in some normal rate of exchange, from which the current rate would be supposed to diverge only more or less temporarily; and it is not easy to see how such confidence could be engendered.
    • John Hicks, “Hawtrey,” in Economic Perspectives (1977), p. 128
  • I regard Mr. Hawtrey as my grandparent and Mr. Robertson as my parent in the paths of errancy, and I have been greatly influenced by them.
    • John Maynard Keynes, “Alternative Theories of the Rate of Interest.” Economic Journal 47 (June 1937): 241–252.
  • We were at an age when our beliefs influenced our behaviour, a characteristic of the young which it is easy for the middle-aged to forget, and the habits of feeling formed then still persist in a recognisable degree. It is those habits of feeling, influencing the majority of us, which make this Club a collectivity and separate us from the rest. They overlaid, somehow, our otherwise extremely diiferent characters-—Moore himself was a puritan and precisian, Strachey (for that was his name at that time) a Voltaircan, Woolf a rabbi, myself a nonconformist, Sheppard a conformist and (as it now turns out) an ecclesiastic, Clive a gay and amiable dog, Sydney-Turner a quietist, Hawtrey a dogmatist and so on.
  • If thoughtful individuals, well read in contemporary economic theory in the 1920s, had been asked at that time which economist was most likely to revolutionise twentieth-century monetary economics (and indeed had already started doing so), it is likely that, without hesitation, they would have given the name Ralph Hawtrey, rather than that of his rival, which we would now give, John Maynard Keynes.
    • Jan Toporowski, Theories of Financial Disturbance: An Examination of Critical Theories of Finance from Adam Smith to the Present Day (2005), Ch. 5 "Ralph Hawtrey and the monetary business cycle"
  • Mehrling: So you didn’t read at that time the classic banking texts, for example, Bagehot’s Lombard Street?
    Volcker: Well I read some of Bagehot, and I read a lot of Hawtrey. I remember I read a lot of Hawtrey.
    Mehrling: Currency and Credit? The Art of Central Banking?
    Volcker: I don’t remember the names of the books, just being in London. In those days I used to read The Economist and the Financial Times, so I kept up with what was going on in the money markets.

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